[eDebate] Steven A. Douglas was a great debater, but...

Charles Olney olneyce
Tue Apr 11 01:08:03 CDT 2006

1. I don't want to debate Roe, but not because I think it shouldn't be
discussed: I just think it would make for annoying and bad debates. 
I'm prepared to be convinced otherwise if it ends up winning.

2. As someone who attended the topic meeting at Ceda, I can tell you
that the (possible) inclusion of Roe was as far from a shrouded,
smoke-filled-room thing as possible.  The topic paper was Galloway's
which provided the mechanism and suggested the specific area of
federalism.  Some people attending suggested that while there was a
strong argument in favor of going with federalism, it might be unfair
to unilaterally limit the "Court overturn" mechanism to just this
area.  After all, oughtn't the community have the chance to
democratically decide whether or not to debate Roe?  Wouldn't it be
far worse to provide topic options that did not at least include the
possibility of this?  Everyone agreed, and they have now given the
community a chance to speak and vote.  Kudos...

3. Every time a "topic process is less than ideal" discussion comes
up, a number of people jump up to explain that it's open, available to
everyone, etc.  This is all true.  BUT, I think it's wrong to dismiss
these opinions as ignorant.  If you continually get complaints from
people in the community about lack of prior knowledge and feelings of
exclusion, the proper response should be two-fold.  First, you should
explain what options are currently available which this person might
not be aware of (e-debate postings, topic meetings, etc.).  Second,
you should consider what ELSE could be done.  Surely no one would
suggest the current topic process is an ideal one.

The complaints may get old, but if they keep complaining it also means
things aren't running quite as well as they could be.  This is not to
say that topic folk don't already do a HUGE amount. They do, and they
really try to make it as open a process as possible.  But let's
seriously consider ways it could be made even better.

4.  And let's start with the timing of these things.  The deadline for
topic papers happening in the busiest time of the year is less than
ideal.  A number of potential solutions have been proposed, and they
all have their pluses and minuses.  Let's get some serious thought on
this subject and maybe get a real reform.  One idea: general topic is
voted on in the fall, topic mechanism/direction papers are worked on
over the winter, and voted on in May.  So, China wins in October. 
Over the next 6 months, people work on papers for "pressure"
"engagement" "military" "Taiwan" or whatever else.  People vote for
the narrowed-down area at the usual voting time, and the topic
committee has a much better idea of the direction the community wants,
plus (hopefully) a stronger literature base to work from.

That's just one idea.  Let's hear others.

5. Something else that would help: let's try to recognize that we're
well into the 21st century.  A lot of the topic discussion still
happens at face-to-face meetings.  Those certainly are good, but let's
not forget the existence of e-debate, an incredibly easy way to
communicate the information to everyone involved.  Don't get mad at
people because they don't come to the topic meeting.  People have
school, jobs, other commitments.  They can't all just fly to Kansas
City.  Similarly, don't get mad because they miss a meeting that
happens DURING a tournament at which they are competing.  It's hard
enough staying afloat just dealing with tournament stuff.  Trying to
do more on top of it is a lot to ask.

That's all the more reason to commend those who do find the time and
make the effort to go to these meetings.  But, surely we can find ways
to include those who are otherwise occupied.  The webcast idea is one.
 And, in the past, the notes from the topic committee have been
FANTASTIC.  But maybe more can be talked about on e-debate before the
actual meeting.  Make it clear to people exactly what is up for
discussion and perhaps they won't feel quite as blindsided when the
results come in.

6. In the interest of getting topic stuff dealt with earlier rather
than later, I want to start talking about 2007-2008.  Steve Mancuso
kindly asked me to assist him in developing a tentative list of 10
topic areas to consider.  We're going to get together that list (with
3-4 pages on each area) for the topic committee to give a perusal at
the meeting.

If you've got ideas for topics, want to do some exploratory research,
or have comments on what we ought to be looking for, please e-mail us.
 We can connect you with other people interested in the same subject,
or give you some direction in what might be helpful to developing a
topic.  Or we can just take your ideas and see what we can do with

Some initial ideas about what might be in store for 2007-2008:
- internet/telecommunications (this one almost made the ballot this
year, but just needed some more work to demonstrate a decent
literature base and the possibility of a topic mechanism that would
make for good debates)
- immigration (Sue Peterson already already mentioned that she's going
to look more into this)
- India
- Latin America - the vast unexplored geographic area.  Environment
issues, drug policies, development, IMF/World Bank issues, the
intersection of nationalism, communism, fascism, and capitalism.  Good
- space
- health care
- Middle East policy.  This could go many directions.  The new Rogue
States topic?  Democracy?  US interactions with non-state actors?

Anything else?  You don't need to send in a topic paper.  Even if all
you've got is a two-word idea for a topic, let us know and we'll see
if there's something to be found there.

7.  Those of you who, like me, have been lamenting the breakup of
Carissa's Wierd should go out and buy "Everything All The Time" by
Band of Horses.  Two of the guys from Carissa's Wierd going all
shoegazer alt-country.  Might be the best album so far in 2006.

8. Strong Bad e-mails as podcasts?  What will they think of next?!

That's all for now.


And I just can't help believing
Though believing sees me cursed
--Johnny Boy
"You Are the Generation Who Bought More Shoes and You Get What You Deserve"

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